Mummified Mice, Cats and Falcons Discovered In Long Lost Ancient Egyptian Tomb
Archaeologists unwittingly following the trail of an ancient Egyptian Pied Piper have uncovered dozens of mummified mice among a stash of around 50 animals laid to rest in an ancient tomb.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, unveiled details about the mysterious discovery on Friday, which according to a report in Aljazeera includes “a well preserved and finely painted tomb” inside which a number of mummified remains were unearthed.
The tomb was discovered about 390km (242 miles) south of Cairo near the Egyptian town of Sohag, in a desert region near the Nile River and archaeologists believe it was built for a man named ‘Tutu’ and his wife. It is believed to date to an era defined as the early Ptolemaic period, which ended with the Roman conquest in 30 BC.
A Beautiful, Colorful Tomb
The tomb is one of seven that were identified in October 2018 when Egyptian archaeological authorities found evidence that tomb robbers had previously raided the site. Mostafa Waziri described the burial chamber to reporters at the BBC as being a “beautiful, colorful tomb… made up of a central lobby [dived in two] and a burial room with two stone coffins.”
Fortunately, not all smugglers are vandals and the walls of the tomb had been left untouched with stunning painted depictions of funeral processions, Tutu working in fields and giving and receiving gifts before different gods and goddesses with his family genealogy recorded in hieroglyphics.
Inside the painted tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
Gods and Goddesses, Great and Small
The tomb contained the mummified corpses of a woman aged between 35 and 50 and boy of about 12 years old when they died, which were together exhibited outside the tomb. However, most unusually, the researchers also discovered a range of mummified animals and birds including more than 50 mummified mice and cats and even a mummified falcon.
Now, the mummified falcon might correspond with either Horus the god of the sun and sky or with Montu, a falcon-god of war in ancient Egyptian religion. And the cats may have been mummified in a ritual in honor of Bastet who was originally a fierce lioness warrior goddess of the sun but evolved into into Bast, the tamer cat goddess. But what about the dozens of mummified mice?
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The mummified remains of the woman and boy found in the tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
Research Finds A Labyrinth of Mousey Answers!
Finding answers to what the mummified mice might have represented, or to which goddess or god they might have been related to, an article published on Sacred-Texts informs that in ancient times in Egypt, rats and mice were formerly objects of superstition and their actions were carefully observed as auguries of good or evil forces. But with the rise of agriculture fields of crops were often destroyed by swarms of pests, insects, rats and mice and they became regarded as being either “Agents of the Devil”, or as being themselves “Veritable demons.”
Part of the stash of mummified cats, birds and mice found in the tomb. Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
Then, contrary to this, are ideas put forward in a 1962 scientific paper written by Hana Vymazalova and Zdenka Suvova titled A Story of an Egyptian Mouse, published by the Moravian Museum in Anthropologie'. A mouse burial was found inside the sarcophagus of Neferinpu, who was an Egyptian priest, dating to the third millennium BC. Linen was found carefully wrapped around the mouse which led archaeologists to associate it with the "solar cult” in which both shrews and mice were “often mummified and placed in little coffins.”
Then, in Custom and Myth / Apollo and the Mouse, we learn that at one time “rats and field-mice were sacred in Egypt" evident in the “Ritual of Strabo” and of many relics of Egyptian art. Herodotus said that the statue of Apollo “had a mouse on its hand and elsewhere it is certain that the story of mice gnawing the bowstrings occurs frequently as an explanation of mouse-worship.”
Well, that’s all folks! Oh yeah, that reminds me of another famous mouse I personally worshiped as a child. Could he too have ancient origins? Was there a small furry Egyptian god called “Jair-Re”, like the Jerry who endlessly evaded feline attacks with frying pans, bowling balls and garden utensils?
Top image: Mummified cat found in Egyptian tomb (Andrea Izzotti / Adobe Stock)
By Ashley Cowie